Czechs to commission Dukovany unit by 2036, says PM

14 November 2019

The Czech Republic expects to select the reactor vendor for a new unit at the Dukovany nuclear power plant by the end of 2022 with commissioning planned for 2036, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said yesterday. His comments followed a meeting of the Standing Committee for the Construction of New Nuclear Resources, which was created in February and has now produced a schedule for expansion of the Dukovany plant.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (second from right) at a press conference after the meeting of the Standing Committee for the Construction of New Nuclear Resources (Image: PM's Office)

According to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, Babis said: "Energy security is our priority, and I am very pleased that today's meeting has set concrete deadlines for a nuclear unit at Dukovany. They are as follows: in 2021 there should be a siting decision, the tender should take place in 2021, a contractor should be selected by the end of 2022, construction should begin in 2029 and operation in 2036."

The Czech Republic's expansion of nuclear power is in line with the European Union’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions in the fight against climate change, he said. France has 52 nuclear reactors, which provide 75% of its electricity, making it "a leader in the initiative to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2050", he said. The Czech Republic has a 30% share of nuclear power, but the government aims to increase that to 40% by 2040, he said. "We are very concerned about our planet and climate change, but our government has a clear plan."

The Czech government owns 70% of ČEZ, operator of the country's six nuclear reactors, which generate about one-third of its electricity. Last year, they produced almost 30 TWh, up from 28.3 TWh in 2017, covering half of the utility's output. Four VVER-440 units are at Dukovany, in Vysočina Region, and two VVER-1000 units are at Temelín, in South Bohemian Region. The country is phasing out its coal-fired power plants and will need to increase the share of nuclear power if it is to remain self-sufficient in electricity supply.

In July, the government gave preliminary approval for Elektrárna Dukovany II - a subsidiary of ČEZ - to build at least one new nuclear power unit. The decision was announced in a government resolution published by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The government’s energy policy, approved by the cabinet in June 2015, foresees one new unit at Dukovany, and possibly three more at the Dukovany and Temelín sites.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček said last month that the country will need to build not only one new unit at Dukovany, but also more reactors at Temelín if it is to avoid becoming dependent on electricity imports from 2030.

Following the meeting yesterday, he said: "The energy clock is ticking. There is no time to waste; we have to build new resources." There is a limit to how far imports and renewable energy can help the country plug its future supply deficit, he said, adding, "We are world-class in nuclear power and building new units is the logical choice." Welcoming the Standing Committee's agreement on this, he said "technical and political consensus is absolutely crucial" during the process to complete a contract with ČEZ, prepare the required legislative steps at a national level and negotiate with the European Commission "simultaneously".

Jaroslav Míl, government commissioner for nuclear energy, said the Standing Committee had discussed the contractual arrangements between the state and the investor, ČEZ. Alongside financial resources, the government will address needs in human resources through cooperation between the Ministry of Industry and Trade and technical universities in order to support specific study programmes.

ČEZ cancelled a tender to build two new units at Temelín in April 2014 after it failed to get state guarantees safeguarding its investment in the project. Bids had been submitted by three candidates - Areva; Westinghouse; and a consortium between Škoda JS, AtomStroyExport and OKB Gidropress. The units had been scheduled to begin operating in 2023 and 2024.

Speaking alongside Babis yesterday, ČEZ CEO Daniel Benes said market estimates for the new unit’s cost ranged from CZK140 billion to CZK160 billion (USD6.0 billion to USD6.9 billion).

Six companies have reportedly showed interest in building new nuclear units in the Czech Republic -  China General Nuclear, EDF, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Rosatom, Westinghouse, and the Atmea consortium of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and EDF.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News